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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for trying to make a baby laugh by blowing raspberries, dancing, putting your face close to his, etc. Baby will not laugh at the week's best games writing so let's get moving.

David Gaider is a writer and game designer at BioWare. He wrote this past week an article titled "I Want to Write Video Games", targeted at people who might say such a thing.

Do you? Do you really? Be honest with me.

I mean, I don’t want to shoot down your dream. There are lots of people who’ve done the research, who know exactly what they’re getting into when they say this, and who spend years earnestly pursuing their goal. There are also lots of people who like the notion of getting into game development but figure they’ll never have any real skills like programming or art so this is their best bet.

This week's guest column at Giant Bomb was Gita Jackson on Dragon Age: Inquisition, and how it reflected her own life experiences.

When your Inquisitor recruits Blackwall in Dragon Age: Inquisition, you have a short conversation with him after he returns to Haven with you. He asks you if you're really the person they pulled from the rift in the sky, and if you're not human, he follows that up with, "I have to admit, I thought you'd be…" That question just hangs in the air, your character answering, "Human?" After picking the brains of a friend who had previously played through Inquisition, I discovered that I picked a race that's somewhat fraught in the Dragon Age universe. I played as a Qunari--I didn't actually know much about the fiction of Dragon Age, I just wanted my Big Large Devil Babe to murder a dragon and sit on someone's face. Unfortunately my Devil Babe--her name was Rihanna--was going to be spending a lot of time hearing all the ways in which people don't like or trust her.

At Gamasutra, this past week's Game Design Deep Dive was Michael McMaster and Jacob Strasser on color as identity in Push Me Pull You. .

Unfortunately, this raised a particular conceptual problem - since the most prominent color of each player was their skin color, players would take to this as their team’s defining feature. Watching people play our game at events, we’d hear them describe the match setup as “black team versus white team”, referring to the onscreen skin tones. Rooting players’ identities in this specifically racial language made us uncomfortable - at best, it felt out of tone with the game we wanted to make, and at worst it framed the in-game competition as this surreal battle-of-the-races.

At Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, sometimes of this parish, writes about putting magic back into magic in fantasy games. Richard Cobbett covered similar ground for us last year.

There are few things less surprising about most fantasy games than how they portray magic, which is a pretty depressing state of affairs given that magic is, by definition, the art of doing the impossible. The impossible, it turns out, has a fairly limited set of applications. By and large, it means hitting foes with elementally-flavoured balls of fire, turbo-charging your stats or zapping wounded allies back to fighting fitness, in accordance with a collection of tactical rule sets derived from the works of Tolkien via Dungeons and Dragons.

I spent the past week reviewing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which prompted me to go read Tom's recent-ish post about why Human Revolution's multiple routes are compelling.

Deus Ex’s appeal is often boiled down to ‘lots of options’, but obviously that doesn’t quite cover it. Right now I’m looking to redesign the ‘sneaking inside spaceships’ part of Heat Signature, so I need more than a vague line about what’s cool about Deus Ex – I need a practical understanding of specifically why it works, and why similar games don’t. So I’m replaying Deus Ex 1 and 3, to figure out what it is I want to steal. And I think it is options, but it’s not just number. They have to fill a certain set of requirements, and this is my attempt to nail down what those are.

And just as I'm writing this, the reviews have gone up. I read PC Gamer's review by Andy Kelly and liked it. Particularly for all the ways in which we agree, which appears to be all of the ways.

While on a counter-terrorism mission in Dubai, which serves as the game’s tutorial level, Jensen and his squad are ambushed by augmented mercenaries wearing creepy gold masks. This sets the main story in motion, and he soon finds himself tangled up in a sinister conspiracy involving the Illuminati. Who else? The story takes place mostly in Prague, with a few stops in other countries that I won’t spoil for you. And, honestly, it’s the weakest part of the game. I never felt that invested in what was going on, and by the end I didn’t feel like I’d learned anything about Jensen as a character.

Music this week is any part of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.

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